Can You Get a Green Card If You Are Married to a United States Citizen?

The U.S. immigration system offers multiple pathways for foreign nationals to live and work in the country. One of the most direct routes to obtaining lawful permanent resident status, commonly known as a “green card,” is through marriage to a U.S. citizen. This route is governed by U.S. immigration laws and managed by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). While marriage to a U.S. citizen is a legitimate means to seek a green card, it’s important to understand the complexities of the process, its requirements, and some common misconceptions. Learn more.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for a green card through marriage, the marriage itself must be genuine. USCIS takes marriage fraud very seriously; therefore, the marriage must be bona fide, or entered in good faith. The married couple must be able to provide extensive documentation to prove their relationship is real, such as photographs, joint bank statements, or affidavits from friends and family.

Application Process

  1. Petition Filing: The U.S. citizen spouse must initially file a petition using Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This step initiates the green card process and establishes the marital relationship between the petitioner and the foreign spouse.
  2. Documentation: Along with the I-130 form, couples must submit evidence of their bona fide marriage, such as marriage certificates, joint financial documents, and photos.
  3. Interview: After the preliminary paperwork has been reviewed and approved, an interview may be scheduled for the foreign spouse. This is a critical step where USCIS officers evaluate the authenticity of the marriage.
  4. Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing: The foreign spouse can either adjust their status to a permanent resident if they are already in the U.S. under a different visa or go through consular processing in their home country.
  5. Conditional Green Card: Initially, a 2-year conditional green card may be issued if the marriage is less than two years old. To remove these conditions and obtain a 10-year green card, the couple needs to file Form I-751 within the 90-day period immediately before the second anniversary of receiving the conditional green card.

Common Misconceptions

  • Immediate Citizenship: A common misconception is that marriage to a U.S. citizen automatically grants citizenship to the foreign spouse. This is not true. The foreign spouse must first obtain a green card and meet additional requirements before applying for citizenship.
  • Instantaneous Process: Obtaining a green card is a lengthy process that involves multiple steps, extensive documentation, and possible interviews. There’s also a financial cost involved, including filing fees.
  • Guaranteed Approval: Being married to a U.S. citizen does not guarantee approval for a green card. Applications can be denied for various reasons, including a lack of evidence proving a bona fide marriage or if the foreign spouse is inadmissible due to criminal history, prior immigration violations, or other factors.

In summary, marriage to a U.S. citizen is a viable pathway to obtaining a green card, but it is not without its complexities and challenges. Both parties must be prepared to prove their marriage is genuine and navigate the intricate U.S. immigration system. Always consider consulting an immigration attorney to guide you through the process and to ensure that you meet all requirements and deadlines. Read more about our firm.